You're listening to Voices of Your Village. And today we get to chat with KC Davis, the author of How to Keep House While You're Drowning. I loved this conversation so much because I feel like I truly, truly needed it. Like, what do we do when it feels like there's 7 billion things that we're supposed to do or that we have to do that are vying for our attention? And it just feels like there's too much when you feel like you're drowning or overwhelmed by all the things. I'm so grateful for the timing of this episode with back to school, a season that often feels like there's so much going on and transitions are so hard, and it can feel really overwhelming. This is also an episode I feel like I will personally come back to. And revisit multiple times with holiday seasons. Or when this new baby comes out of my body and life feels bonkers. I'm super jazzed to share KC Davis with you now.
I'm also jazzed to let you know that we are starting to announce book tour locations. All locations can be found at www.seedandsew.org/booktour, ones that are currently available, for ticketing, ones that are coming soon. And then there's even a spot to be added if you want an email every time we add a new location. You can sign right on up and we'll send it over to you so that you can be the first to know and snag your tickets before they sell out. I'm so jazzed to get to be in person with you all again. I've missed it so much and am grateful for the opportunity to pop around the country before this tiny human comes out of my body and get to come meet you and dive into Tiny Humans, Big Emotions with you. Head to www.seedandsew.org/booktour to snag your ticket today. All right, folks, let's dive in.
Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and co-creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans, raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together.
Hello everyone, and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today, I get to hang out with KC Davis. She's the best-selling author of How to Keep House While Drowning. KC is a licensed therapist, the creator of the popular Struggle Care website and Instagram and the Domestic Blisters TikTok, where she shares her revolutionary approach to self and home care for those dealing with mental health issues, physical illness, and hard seasons of life. Across platforms, KC has more than 1 .5 million followers. She has recently launched the podcast Struggle Care, which is available on every podcast platform like the one you're tuning into now. KC Davis lives in Houston with her husband and two daughters. And KC, as a mom of one and, I don't know, a half -ish growing human, I need all of this. I'm so jazzed to get to hang out with you personally today. How are you doing?
I'm good. I am good. Summer is kind of a crazy time. My kids just, they did school, like little preschools last year. And so this is my first like true mother summer experience where you're like, oh, what do I do with them now?
Sure. Are they in camps?
Okay, rad. Cool. And even that, the like finding of the camps and the logistics and, oh man, it's a whole thing. It's a whole thing.
Can you share with folks, like what, I guess what inspired you to write the How to Keep House While Drowning? What spurred that?
So, all right, well, first of all, I've always been a messy person. Like I've always been, I mean, I don't know how else to put it. And much to my mother's dismay. And I got pregnant with my second kid, like she was due early 2020. And three weeks after we had her was when everything shut down from COVID. And I went from having all sorts of supports to having no supports overnight. We were in a new city, we didn't have any family here. And my husband had just started a job at a law firm. So he was working a ton. And we couldn't even access the things that we could have afforded help with, like a housekeeper or delivery meals. I mean, early in the pandemic, nobody was even going grocery shopping. So I found myself at home 24/7 in the house with a two year old and a newborn. And I just really quickly got depressed and really quickly got overwhelmed with all of the house stuff. There was just no way that my husband and I could stay on top of it. And I'm not someone that's ever really had any kind of systems when it came to like keeping house because I've just always kind of flown by the seat of my pants. Like I'm very much a, I would just be messy all week and then turn on some music and take a couple hours on a Saturday and kind of straighten everything out. But then I found myself with two babies that don't give you two hours of time to do anything interrupted.
And like they're, for little kids that don't move much. I mean, my, at least the newborn, like they were creating so much stuff and mess and between the pumping parts and the toys and the snacks. And I mean, just like everything was everywhere. And I was very overwhelmed. And I had to kind of think about, okay, for the first time in my life, I actually need to put like some systems in place in my home. But I always have just been acutely aware that the kind of systems that other people do in their homes don't work for me. Like I have ADHD, I'm a messy person. Like a lot of the people that are kind of creating and advertising these like systems for your home are like naturally neat and tidy people. I'm not that.
And so I just started making videos on TikTok about like these sort of like creative weird ways that I was finding to kind of just get by and survive and cut a lot of corners. Like that was kind of my, I was like, okay, how many corners can I cut to just get to functional? And that's kind of how it started.
Yeah, that resonates so much. I am presently coming at you from my bedroom and just like glanced up and it's a disaster. And I too am a messy person. I grew up, I'm one of five kids and it's, you can always tell where I've been, right? Like, you know, oh, I came in this door and I...
Oh yeah, there's a trail.
My shoes are here, correct. Yeah, and that's been me my whole life. Also to my mother's dismay. And my husband is an only child and a parent or a child with divorced parents since he was young. And he always had to know where all of his things were. He split time a week here, a week there. And he is very organized and neat. And I feel like he spends a lot of his time picking up after me. And I am not, I would say too, for me, I don't have a very low, like I have a pretty high threshold for mess. I'm not a human who like, oh, there's some, whereas for him, like there's a little clutter, there's a little mess and it feels really big for him. For me, I can get to a lot of mess before I'm like, all right, we gotta do something about this.
Me too. And I found that that was one of the hardest things when I was wanting to put in systems is because I have a high tolerance for mess. I don't really address anything until it's like teetering on the verge of not functional anymore. But then I was also getting overwhelmed by how much there was to do. And it was like, oh, there's so much here. And the funny thing was, is I also found myself doing really small, weird things where like, let's say that my countertop was already really cluttered. And you push some things out of the way and you're making lunches and you're taking like the Babybel cheese out of the wrapper. There was this part of my brain subconsciously that like, when I'd have that wrapper in my hands, I would kind of go like, okay, let's go throw this away. And then I would kind of look at the counter and be like, what's the point? And I just put it on the counter. And so one of the things that I realized was it wasn't so much about like, start saying yes to throwing something away after you use it, as much as it was like, stop saying no to it.
Yeah. Oh I love that shift.
Like, even if it's already messy, it's still helpful when you do have that little like impulse because it wasn't even about like, make yourself do something you wouldn't naturally do. I was actually stopping myself from doing it because I have that kind of black and white, like, what's the point? What's, you know, I might as well put it on the thing because it's already really cluttered. And then I realized like, no, it actually is really helpful. Like, even if I'm not gonna clean everything right now, even if it's already cluttered, to throw a tiny Babybel wrapper away when I kind of feel the impulse to, like still helps. And there's so much about being a messy person and wanting to keep a functional house. And I truly believe you do not need to make yourself a not messy person to have a functional home.
Well, thank you. Great. I don't know how to be other, something else. I don't know how to be something else.
I really can't. Like I tried one day where I was like, okay, everyone keeps saying, just pick up as you go. And so I genuinely tried that. And at the end of the day, I was miserable and my home still wasn't tidy. Like my brain doesn't work that way. I can't shift attention back and forth that quickly. And I made a really funny video about it where somebody was like, well, just clean up after you go. And I responded to it and I was holding one child and I was like, okay, so we just had breakfast and there's oatmeal all over the floor. Should I clean that up? Or should I go clean up the vomit that somebody just vomited on the floor? Like a cat just vomited. So I guess I'll go get the cat thing first and let's throw that in the trash. Here we go. It's in the trash. Oh wait, somebody needs a bandaid. Let's go put a bandaid on it. Oh, somebody just shat their diaper. And you're just like ping -ponging all these things. And it's like, and then at the end of it, I was like, and also if I don't leave right this minute for the park, I will not have time to take them before nap time.
So I physically can't be in more than one place at once. And that's true, I think of all people who are mothers or fathers, but add on to that, the fact that I have ADHD and I already have compromised like working memory and attention span and all that kind of stuff. And it just takes it to the next level. So I had to find ways that worked for my brain to kind of get some systems going.
Okay, I dig this. I'm wondering, one of the things that I feel like comes up for me is like the "supposed to" tasks that honestly I don't care about, but then like there's a part of me that's like, well, I'm supposed to X, Y, and Z. I'm supposed to not have this pile of mail on the counter. But like, I don't actually care if it's there. Like it doesn't matter to me that it's there. And so I'm wondering about that, the like "supposed to" tasks and what it looks like to, I don't know, figure out like the difference between supposed to versus the like
Need to or want to?
Yeah, and like what actually helps you function.
Well, I think unfortunately as women, we really get socialized to believe that our job is to nurture and tend and care task. And that our ability to do that is completely fused to like our identity or worth as a person. So, we're almost socialized to be neater, tidier, kinder, less assuming, take up less space. And so we grow up with this sense that keeping house is this performance of worthiness. And there's one set way your house should look. And if it doesn't look that way, it's something wrong with you. You're not doing something right. You're lazy or you're not good enough or you're irresponsible. And I think that's really the first hurdle is recognizing that we have to stop thinking about how you keep house as this performance of worthiness. And instead look at it as these things, like it's not my job to serve my house. It's my house's job to serve me.
I love that.
And so, whether my mail is piled up in a pile on the coffee bar or whether it's like neatly put away somewhere, neither one of those things makes a functional difference to me personally. Like I'm like you, it doesn't matter to me. And so the first step is really recognizing like what in my home makes a functional difference to me and my quality of life and what doesn't. And obviously it's a little more complicated if you've got multiple people with maybe different levels of mess tolerance. But yeah, I mean like I'm not ever gonna put time and energy into a mail pile beyond, okay, which of this do I need to throw away?
Because it does make a functional difference whether I have clean dishes or whether I can access my sink or whether there's a clean safe place to make a sandwich in the morning, whether we have clean clothes, whether I can walk through my house without tripping over. And so I always think about function in three layers. So imagine like a cupcake. That bottom layer of that like sponge cake, that's the same for everyone. That's our health and safety layer. So we all deserve a safe and sanitary home. So this would be like, let's think about your floors. Like the health and safety aspect of like cleaning your floors is like number one, removing any objects that might cause people to trip. And then also like things on the floor that could breed bacteria or mold. Like we don't want cat hairballs on the floor. We don't want too many crumbs on the floor for too long because you'll get ants or bugs or things like that. And so at that point, it's like, okay, that's the most important thing. That's your baseline health and safety. Like those things need to be addressed. And so you can address those things without having a perfectly clean floor. And then your next layer of that icing layer is comfort. So there are going to be differences between you and me and everybody else about like what is the comfort level of our floors. And so for me, I really like to walk barefoot in my house. And so I really dislike that feeling of getting all those like little bits of junk on the bottom of your feet, you know? And so that would be like the comfort layer is that in those major thoroughfares, when I have time, I like to go through and get them swept up, right? And that doesn't mean that I have to be on my hands and knees at the baseboards or in every single room, but those are kind of the major thoroughfares, especially in the kitchen that just make my life more comfortable. And then that cherry on top is just happiness. Like it does make me happy to sit on my couch and see that gleam come off of the hardwood floors that you can tell like, oh, there's no mud stains. There's no shadows. There's no, right, like, and everything's all put up. Like, yeah, that does make me happy. But like, but that way, when I think of things in that way, it allows me to prioritize because I'm not always gonna be able to bring every care task up to the cherry on top, right? So we can do this with anything, like your laundry, basic sponge layer, safety and sanitary, clean clothes. That's it, just clean. And then your comfort level might be like without wrinkles. Maybe you're more comfortable when your clothes aren't wrinkled. Maybe the comfort level is knowing where things are. So I don't have to search for that one shirt that I like. So having something maybe a little more organized. And then maybe that cherry layer on top is like the, I love it when everything is perfectly trifolded and color coordinated and just perfectly organized. It's just aesthetically pleasing. And all of those layers are valid. But I also know that it's valid if I have a kid that's sick or if I need to rest that day or if I need to go to the spa with a friend because they're having a hard time. If I need to go, if something comes up, if I need to go be room mom that day, that like, it's okay to prioritize things over the cherry and even over the icing.
Yeah, I love this so much. Okay, as you were saying it, I was thinking of like, what are those spaces for me? Like we have a playroom and really there's toys all over my house, but we have a playroom. And what I have found is my two year old is more likely to have longer periods of independent play when the playroom is clean. And so for me, the like, I think function part is it gives me time to breathe and have a minute. And that allows me to be a better parent and just kinder human in general when he has more independent playtime. And my entire purpose of like cleaning up his playroom at the end of the day or at naptime or whatever is really to get time back for myself when I need it.
And that's a kindness that you do for yourself and for your kid. That's not a, I'm a bad mom if it's messy. You know, I've done something wrong. It needs to look nice. And that's really important because when we buy into that, I'm a good mom if it's clean, we can go so far as to even make it unfunctionally clean. You're not letting your kid get enough toys out. You're insisting that they clean up at the end of the day, every day, regardless of whether they're in the middle of a project, they want to come back to the next day. You're stressing them out about having to clean. You're getting into these power struggles about cleaning and you're giving them this bad impression of cleaning, these bad associations with cleaning. And so recognizing that this whole like clean every day, clean at the end of the day is pretty arbitrary. And instead I want to look at like, what is the functional like lifespan of the playroom? Because it doesn't need to be spotless all the time, but it certainly gets to a place where it's not playable anymore. And what I do with my kids is that I want them to think that way. Because if I arbitrarily make them clean up at a certain time, because that's what I want, that doesn't teach them anything.
That they're at least not anything they're going to take on their own when they leave my house. So I'll make comments like, and I like to wait until the function is actually affecting them. So they come to me because they tripped. They come to me because they stepped on my leg. They came to me because they can't find the pink doll with the brown hair. And I go, yeah, I mean, it looks like it's a little difficult to play in our playroom right now. We should probably pick it up. Let's do that together. And I always do it with them. And for me, the three layers of the playroom, like the safety and security part is like, it can't be so cluttered that they're like falling over or tripping or getting hurt. And then, or there can't be like, their applesauce packet from three days ago in there, which that happens too. And then like the icing comfortable layer is like, okay, I'm just going to go in and put everything into the baskets. I don't care what basket it goes into. I just want the floor clear. And then like once every couple of months, I'll go in and be like, you know what the real cherry on top is for me and my kids is to actually sit down and organize the toys so that like all the Legos are in this basket, all the stuffies are in this basket, all the dinos are in this basket. But I don't do that very often because it's time consuming and we have a lot of other stuff in our life. And so I think that that's what's helpful is pointing out to my kids like, hey, this room has reached the end of its functional clock.
Yeah. Oh, I love that. I love it. And being, I love the personalization aspect of this that like, for instance, my two year old parts of his like nervous system in the way that he's built, he likes the order and control and knowing like all of the balls are in this basket. If I'm looking for a ball, I can go to this basket. And so when we do clean up, we also do it together. For him, it feels important that the toys are back in those spaces so that when he's looking for that, he can find it, but it doesn't feel important to me. Right? And so I've had to learn like, then when I'm cleaning stuff up too, that this is something that feels important for him for being able to find it. And just like that differentiation and just, yeah. Oh, my wheels are spinning about like, what are the spaces that really matter to me and what matters in those spaces? And like, I don't care if I have a dirty toilet, you know, if somebody throws up in it, great. We're going to clean that at some point. But like, that doesn't bother me so much. I do like to have the dishes done at the end of the day because I want to have clean dishes in the morning. But like my room, as I said, is like a mess and that's okay for me. Like in terms of bandwidth, when I, you know, in those random times where I'm like, I have, okay, 30 minutes at nap time. One of the adjustments I've had to make is maybe this room would really take me an hour and a half to fully get to like clean, clean. But I have 30 minutes that like, that's okay too, is to say, I'm going to spend the next 30 minutes before he gets up from nap, doing whatever I can do in here. It's kind of, I guess it's kind of like your Babybel throwing away, where when I can't do it at all, it used to be like, well, then don't start it.
And I would even go further to say, if I only have 30 minutes, I'm going to spend seven minutes picking up and then I'm going to spend 23 minutes resting.
Totally, me 30 minutes is only if I've already like rested and done the other.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I think that that's huge though, like for moms, because we do feel like any downtime we have, we are morally obligated to be cleaning unless everything is done. And I really like early, early on when I had kids, I made this decision that nap time was mom time and I did not do anything except for rest and recreate when my kids were sleeping during the day. And that saved me and my mental health. I mean, I still struggled, but that was huge. And I'm not saying it's like a rule, like obviously if I wanted to do something because I thought my life would be better, great. But for the most part, I did like make myself protect those times and it really helped, especially when I had two kids because they so rarely were sleeping at the same time.
But you're totally right. I mean, it's really about, you know, your priorities. And then even when you recognize your priorities, there are going to be seasons, sometimes short, sometimes long, where you're not even going to be able to get all the priorities done.
Correct, hello first trimester that I just came out of. Like, yeah, yeah. I was like, no, there are no rules right now.
And that's when you have to get creative. Like I stopped folding my clothes. So one of the things I do with my laundry is that first of all, I send any time that I can afford it, I send my laundry out. Like I just realized that laundry is one of the things that I hate the most. And so I at least try to treat myself once a month or something by sending it out. I would like to use an app.
Or, you know, drop it off at a wash and fold. That's like always a nice thing to do. Which by the way, is my hack for packing. Like if you're going on summer trips, the best hack for packing is get all the clothes together and take them to a wash and fold and you get them back all folded. And then you can just put them straight into your like suitcases.
Anyways, but so what I did is I did a few things. One is that I decided to have a family closet. So my girls are three and five. And when they were like one and three, I realized how ridiculous it was that I was like going to my closet to dress me and then going to my daughter's closet to dress her and then going to my other daughter's closet to dress her. And I'm like, I am dressing all three of these people. Why am I going to three different locations for this? You know what I mean? Like, so, and then also it made it harder when it was time to do laundry because I was having to go to three different places to get the dirty laundry. And the dirty laundry was making clutter in three different rooms. And so I was like, this is ridiculous. I have this really nice walk -in closet. I'm going to make it a family closet. So now all of our family has their clothes in one closet. And I also went to like a basket system. So instead of having dressers and drawers and folding things, I just have baskets. I have a little like Ikea cube storage and there are baskets in every one. And I just divide up the clothes. So it's like, these are the girls' shorts. These are the girls' shirts. These are my shorts. These are my pants. These are my like lounge PJ clothes. These are my undies. These are, you know, Michael's undershirts. And so it's really easy to find what you're looking for really quickly, but we don't fold anything. So I literally sit on the ground with a pile of laundry and I can quickly throw everything into the correct basket. And I can get three loads of laundry sorted in eight minutes. I mean, it's that easy. And I'll hang a few things. Like I'll hang maybe me and Michael's shirts that we don't want to be wrinkled, but things don't really get wrinkled when they're not compressed. If you're just tossing them into a basket with a few other things. So I did that. And that's been like huge because I had to take this big long laundry routine, cut a bunch of corners, take out some steps and get it down to something manageable. And since I did that two years ago, no joke, I get my laundry done and put away every week. And I wash every single item of clothing. I also pared down my closet quite a bit because previous to that, when I did laundry, it was always like this triage of like, oh God, I have no clothes. Let me just go get a handful of them and wash and dry. But there was always like dirty clothes left behind. But I pared down my closet. I went to a family closet and I stopped folding. I went a basket system. And now I can fit all of our clothes into one or two loads and get it back up within a matter of hours. And I'd never been able to do that before.
Sounds so glorious. Also, I want to walk in closet after listening to that. I'm like, yeah, to sit in one space. That sounds lovely. Oh yeah. More of this. I also like the note on like seasons. You know, I was thinking of, you know, first trimester pregnant while having a toddler. Also postpartum. Postpartum for me was a season where I was like, I'm taking so much off my plate and going to get creative slash outsource wherever I could. Ask my mother -in -law. We moved back to Vermont to live close to family in order to raise kids. And I was just like, hey, can you come over once a week? And if it's after work, great. Or if it's on the weekend, whatever. And just help around the house. You can hold the baby sometimes too, but like really come and help around the house. And it was so uncomfortable for me to ask that. And she was like, yeah, of course. And it was glorious. For me, I think like being one of five in a low -income community and we didn't have, but also asking for help was not
a way that you showed love. It was, you know, like being high maintenance, like the worst thing I could be in life. And so that for me has been a practice of like in just saying like, oh, I'm gonna bring my laundry to a wash and fold. Like inside of me feels like asking for help. And I have to like be really mindful of that part that comes up each time that I'm going to ask for help in whatever that might look like. And yeah, so if there's anyone listening that like also feels that way, I think for me it's just been the awareness of that part and then being able to recognize like, yeah, it makes sense to feel that way given how I was raised and I am allowed to ask for help.
And you bring up such a great, it's just a great point about so much of this is about our emotional relationships to care tasks. Because if you are from a community that does not have enough resources or a family that does not have enough resources, asking, you know, helping each other, asking for help, that's not necessarily how you show love. You show love by not burdening somebody because everybody already is so burdened. And so you pull in, you figured out yourself, that's the way to love each other as opposed to, oh, we depend on each other to show love. No, we pull in. So I think that that's important to recognize, okay, that's how it was then. And that was important then. And I was right to do that then, but I'm in a different place now and I don't need those skills anymore. I need different skills now. And so I've talked to a lot of people who grew up in neglectful or abusive or hoarding environments. And now they feel as though if one thing is out of place, they're gonna spiral and they're gonna be like their mom. Or if one thing's out of place, they're gonna traumatize their child. I had people that came from situations where, you know, their parents were really cold and required that everything always be put up and they got in trouble if they left a toy out. And now fast forward, they have anxiety if anything's out or they go the opposite and they don't want anything to be organized because they have this sort of, I'm autonomous now. And we really do have to pay attention and honor sort of where those relationships came from, but then be willing to kind of have a different perspective that's more attuned to like your reality right now. And I do think like with seasons, what's really hard for us, I think a lot as moms is feeling like we're failing if we are cutting corners or using adaptive routines. And so like for me, when we've recently come out of like a one month base of using paper plates and I try to splurge for the like compostable ones cause that makes me feel a little bit better. But I mean, I just got, I was dealing with some health stuff. We were dealing with some things with our kids and was like, this is too much. I'm not able to get the dishes done as frequently as I'd like to. And so like, we still use our cups, we still use our silverware, we still occasionally use our bowls. But like, I just went to paper plates because doing that allowed me to do the dishes once a week. And it wasn't some giant pile. It was just a big pile of silverware and some cups. So I think that's important. And when you were talking about, asking your mother -in -law to come over, there's a lot of different ways we can get creative about that. You might not live near a family member that can do that, but you might have a friend that maybe they're struggling with a task that's different than the tasks you struggle with and you switch. You say, I'm gonna come over and bring my laundry and we'll do our laundry together and I'll help you do the dishes. Or on Saturdays, you drop your kids off here for two hours. The next Saturday, I'll drop my kids off there for two hours so we both get a break. Or let's call each other on the phone and FaceTime every Sunday and have an hour where we just do stuff around our house. And it's called body doubling where you have somebody there to, they don't even have to be helping you with the thing. Just someone having someone there is helpful. And then I used to do things like, I would jokingly call them my closing duties where there was a long period of time where because of my kids' age and our activity, like every night after my kids went to bed at 7 .30, I would spend 25 minutes doing closing duties, which was just like four or five things. It was like load up the dishwasher, take out the trash, clear the kitchen island, and then pre -make my coffee for the next morning. And I could leave the whole house a disaster. But if I came downstairs and did those four things, no more than 25 minutes, I was setting myself up for success in the morning. Because we tend to go one way or the other, like you mentioned, like we either come down and we see this big disaster and go, oh, I can't, and sit down and do nothing. Or we come down and go, oh my gosh, I have to. And then we do everything. And we do it into the hours of the night. We don't ever rest. We don't sit down. We constantly feel exhausted. And so finding a middle ground where it's not gonna be perfect, it may not even get the whole house functional, but I can still honor my present needs to rest and my future needs to function.
I don't know about you, but when I scroll through Instagram or I'm tuning into podcasts and diving into parenting resources, resources for myself as a teacher, I can feel overwhelmed. Like, where do I start? I need a guide for what this looks like in practice. And I don't want something that's one size fits all. Because every child is different, right? And if you have multiple children, if you're a teacher, you know that it's not one size fits all. Or if you have seen what works for your sister in law or your best friend or your neighbor, and you're like, oh my gosh, my child does not respond to that. That is how I felt. And then we created the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. It is a guide for building emotional intelligence. And y'all there are five components of the CEP method. One is about how to respond to the kids and what it looks like to have adult/child interactions. The other four are about us. Because I don't know about you, but I did not grow up getting these tools. I did not grow up with them. didn't grow up in this household. Where I was taught tools for self awareness and self regulation and how to do emotion processing work. And now, as a parent and as a teacher, I'm supposed to teach those skills to a tiny human? But we can't teach what we don't know. And so my first book, Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, is here to support you. You can head to www.seedandsew.org/book and snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions today. This is a game changer. It's going to build these skills with you, for you, so that you can do this work alongside building these skills for your tiny humans, so that they can grow up with a skill set for self awareness, for regulation, for empathy, for social skills, for intrinsic motivation. A skill set of emotional intelligence so that they can navigate all the things that come their way in life. Snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions at seedandsew.org/book.
Yeah, I love that. And again, I love how personalized it is. It's like what I need to function the next day might look different than what my best friend or my sister -in -law or whatever needs to function the next day. And so what we do with those 25 minutes might be different.
Yeah, and you might have different bodies. You might have different brains.
I mean you might have work schedules and all that. Yeah. Or a physical disability, or you might be a single parent, or you might have, you know what I mean? Like there's just so many things and not comparing what you're capable of doing with what somebody else is capable of doing. And this is, I think this is one of the hardest but most fulfilling parts of the journey that motherhood brings us personally. It's like, it's hard to find a place where you feel as though you are honoring your body and your need for rest and to just be, and you are sufficiently taking care of yourself and the people around you because there's no way to do it all. And so it's always gonna feel like you're not doing one of them correctly. And I used to always talk to people I really struggled for a long time with how sick is too sick to call into, to like go to work. Because I mean, absent the idea of like being contagious cause that's cut and dry, but it's like growing up, I didn't wanna go to school. And so I would like, if I stubbed my toe, I'd be like, oh, I'm really hurting. I can't go to school. And then I got to a place where I was like, I don't wanna be that way anymore. But then I went in the opposite direction. And I was like, unless I physically can't get out of bed, I should get out of bed and go to work. And then somebody was like, why are you doing this to yourself? And I realized that like, there's no like magic, like nobody can really tell you what the magical right place of feeling too shitty to do something.
When do I push through? When do I not push through? When do I like, there's no objective right answer. You just have to kind of fumble around and be on guard for that like false guilt.
Yeah. And it's different in different seasons. I think I have always until Seed worked jobs where if I didn't show up, someone had to in my place, right? Like I was a waitress. I worked in direct care for folks with mental and physical disabilities. I was a teacher, the Early Childhood Educator for a long time. Like that's been my career. If I don't show up, there's no one to take care of the kids in the classroom. Like there needs to be somebody else. And in Early Ed, in childcare, we don't have a sub pool usually to pull from like you might have in K-12. So there was always this part of me. Again, this comes back to asking for help where I would have to inconvenience somebody else or burden somebody else to meet my needs. Like I have to have like a neuro virus and highly contagious before I'm doing that. And I then like that shift into motherhood and really recognizing like, oh yeah, no, actually I can tap out. And I do have a husband in this relationship who is a co -parent and he can tap in and he has no problem tapping out. Like he is way more, I mean, he's super awesome and engaged. But when he was sick, he's like, yeah, I'm in bed and I'm sick. And I'm like, yeah, of course. And I just like take it on. But when I'm sick, I'm like, I can come down and help with dinner. And then I'll just like go back to bed, right? Like that is so deeply ingrained and such a strong part of me that, yeah, I think the like nurturing and caretaking. I'm wondering for you with the girls going back to school, what are things that you have found or yeah, that have worked for you in that season of like the return, the switching of seasons, the going back to school in this instance, or maybe even coming out of school or going through holidays, et cetera, where routine is gonna shift and there's a lot of newness happening. What are your thoughts there?
Yeah, one of the things that I had to kind of be honest with myself about and that I no longer have shame about is that like my children know that I love them desperately, but I also have come to realize that I need a certain amount of time, not direct caregiving my children in order to maintain mentally healthy. And I felt really guilty about that for a long time. Cause I mean, I spent the first few years of their life literally 24/7 365. And there was some really intense depression and there was some really difficult times and there was some really, it's just awful. And when my kids started to do like a little part time daycare, literally my psychiatrist made me do that because she's like, you are not going to be okay if you don't get some breaks. And I did that and I got to a place where I was like, oh, I'm being able to function more. And then they would have a break and I go right back to feeling so overwhelmed. And it's not that way anymore. But like, for example, we came to the end of the school year and there was gonna be five weeks before we went on vacation. And what I did was I said, okay, for the first two weeks of summer, we're not gonna do any camps. It's just gonna be like fun two weeks, mom and kiddos. And then...
By the way, this is my nightmare.
I'm putting these little MFers in camp. Like, and I am someone who, you know, so I work for myself. And what I do is I literally, I make TikTok content. I write, I record my podcast. So I don't have this like super demanding schedule. I need a little childcare, but not a ton, but I've gotten comfortable arranging more childcare than I quote unquote need, where I feel like if I'm not actively making money every second, then it was wrong of me to get childcare for that moment. So I did that because I knew if you give me weeks and weeks and weeks of me and my kids just staring into each other's eyeballs, none of us are gonna be happy. And I've let go of the expectation that I would be a good mom if I was able to do that or I should be able to do that. And so it was like, okay, here's what we're gonna do. Two weeks is what I can do. Honestly, like two weeks is what I can do because I can sit down and go for these two weeks, I'm gonna plan things out. We're gonna go to the pool on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we'll go to the zoo on this day. We'll do an art project. I went and bought enough stuff for there to be an art project every day. I planned out going to the pool most afternoons because for me, I realized like I'm the kind of mom, like I wanna take you on adventures and do fun things. And then I wanna come home in the afternoon and I want you to go away and play. Like I'm not a like get on the floor and play Barbies with your mom. And that's okay, it's just not my strength. I do it sometimes cause my kids love it but I mostly lean into the things that I'm good at, right? Which is let's do a picnic, let's do an art craft, let's do something that's a little more structured that I can really get into and we can enjoy each other. So that's part of it is like, okay, I'll take two weeks. We'll do the fun balls to the wall, summer, free fall, no structure thing. And then they'll go to camp for three weeks so that I can work, I can rest, I can do some things around the house that need to be done. So I don't know if that answers your question but that's just like an example of that. I mentioned like, you know, I sent laundry out for a while. I've been using paper plates recently. I try to outsource as much as I can.
Yeah, I dig that also. I said, this is my nightmare. Love, love being a parent and really like a week and I'm like, I need more time to not be around you 24/7. A week is my, that's my cutoff where I have found like I'm then not present, I'm not enjoying it. We're not enjoying each other. Like the things that weren't annoying a week ago now are really annoying to me. You know, like that's where I found my cutoff.
But let me tell you something that really, really helped me and set me free from a lot of mom guilt.
Is when I realized I love being a parent. I love being a parent. I don't always love being a mom.
Interesting. I don't experience the mom, like working mom guilt so far like hasn't been a thing for me because I can see that I'm such a more present and regulated mom when I have time to work.
Well, that's 100% true. And that's kind of what I mean. It's like, parent is a biological thing. Mom is a social construct. The role of mom in our society is different than the role of dad. The role of mom in a capitalistic society is very different than the role of mom in a more interdependent community oriented, you know, basic needs taken care of society. The role of mom when it comes to like, you should be able to keep a perfect house and keep your kids entertained and have a Pinterest craft every day and make homemade muffins. And it better be organic and it better be right. Like that idea of mom totally made up specific to like middle -class white motherhood. The idea that mom should martyr herself. Like I made a TikTok one time where I talked about having boundaries and motherhood. And I said, one of the boundaries that I have is I eat my food hot. And that means that when food is done and ready, I sit down and eat. And if my kids need something, they have to wait. And if my husband's late, I'm eating anyways. And not because I'm mad at him, not because I'm punishing him, but because I have to pour out so much of myself and put myself last so often, just because that's what parenting does, that I have to reclaim places where I'm putting myself first.
And you cannot imagine the amount of people that told me that I was a bad mother for not stopping in the middle of my meal to refill a juice. Literally saying, then why did you have kids? Your kids should always come first. I posted a video recently where somebody asked me, what do you do with all your kids' artwork? I'm so overwhelmed. And I said, let me tell you a secret, I throw most of it away. I said, anything that's like a coloring page, immediately to the trash. Most other things immediately to the trash. And then I take a few of the things and I have this little frame that hangs on the wall that opens, that stores a lot of art in it. And I kind of rotate them through and I keep a few precious pieces.
Will you send me that link to the frame? I want the link to the frame.
I got a comment that said, this is so gross. You're gonna wonder why your kids put you in a home. I got one that said, oh my God, worst mother of the year. What's wrong with you? And so when I say, I don't always enjoy being a mom. Yeah, sure. I don't mean, I don't love being a parent to my children. What I mean is, the role of mother in our society is screwed up and there are so many extra pressures. There are so many extra expectations. It's not enjoyable. Yeah. And that's not because I don't love my kids. That's because society has decided that motherhood has all this extra baggage on it.
Yep. Yeah. Okay, that resonates. And I feel that deeply. One thing that I've noticed and I feel like there's a couple different responses, not consciously, but subconsciously, to like overwhelm, right? Like going back to school here when you're in a busy season, or for us when we're like, all right, we're gonna go on this beach vacation. The like two days leading up to the beach vacation where there's the overwhelm of like the packing, the whatever, do we have all the logistics, yada, yada. Two different responses. One, take things off your plate. What can come off? What's not essential to happen right now? Like, you know, what doesn't actually have to happen before I go on that vacation? Or what doesn't actually have to happen before we get out the door for school or in this first month of school as people are transitioning and feelings are big and all that jazz. And the other one is add things on to my plate or to my list because there are things I can check off when things feel overwhelming or out of control. Or one of, I was just having this conversation with our Seed team and one of the people on our team was like, oh yeah, like how I clean my bathrooms every single time the day before we're supposed to go on vacation, literally because my world feels bonkers. And I'm like, I can clean my toilet right now. Like that. And I was like, exactly that. Yeah. The like adding onto the list when you already feel overwhelmed versus the taking off. And I find myself, and when I look at like my parents, this was what was modeled for me, so it's not shocking, is the taking off. The like, all right, what can I strip down? Do what actually has to happen? Can we order out? Can we whatever, right? Like what can I strip down to make my life easier right now? And as we're going into like back to school season, I'm thinking about that and how we, I would just like to have a discussion, I guess, around like those kind of two different approaches and what it looks like.
Yeah. Well, one thing that it kind of reminded me of that it's like only tangentially related is that sometimes when I make to -do lists, there are two things about to -do lists that can really help and they're similar. One is that I try to make, when I'm really overwhelmed, I make to -do lists not by task, but by step because it's really frustrating. So like it's really frustrating and overwhelming to put do laundry on your list and then spend four hours doing the laundry, but because you didn't get it folded and put away, you can't cross it off the list. Yeah. So I'll write, put laundry, like wash clothes, dry clothes, fold clothes, put clothes away. Now I don't fold anymore, but you get the point, right? Like four different, so that I can go through and have that reward of like, you know what? I did do a lot today. I did accomplish a lot today. I may not have gotten to that last little step, but I did it. And that helps for two reasons.
The little dopamine reward all day long.
Yes, it's like that dopamine reward. It's the recognition of how much labor I did, but it also, when I get really overwhelmed, tells me exactly what to do. I don't sit there, you know, with my mouth open, staring at the list going, how do I start? And then I also will sometimes come back to my list at the end of the day and write down the things that I did. So I jokingly call it like a to -do list and a to -da list. Like, because you'll look at your list and be like, I didn't get anything done today, but then I'll take a minute and like, but let me write down what I did do. And I'll write down like, you know, cuddled a child after a meltdown, you know, made lunch, like things that, and then I get to step back and go, okay. And like, that's what helps me recenter. It's like, I did a lot today. It's okay that I didn't, like, I'm not God. I can't tell you what exactly is gonna come up today. And so it's not my job to like judge my day based on whether I accurately predicted what I was gonna be able to do. So that really helps me. But I think when it comes to things like, it's always like beginning of school year, Christmas time and end of school year, I feel like for moms that have kids in school. And that's where I think it can actually be really helpful to at a time when you're not crunched like that, sit down with your family, with your spouse and talk about like, what will crunch times look like for us? Like, let's now talk about it because are lots of things that can be done with preparation. Like you can re imagine your whole budget to go, we need to be able to send laundry out three times a year. Or we need to be able to bring in a housekeeper three times a year. We need to be able to eat out for one week, the first week of school. We don't, whatever it is, like you can, things don't, I think sometimes we think about those more like the luxuries things that not everybody can afford. It's very, even with that, we can get black and white. Either you have a weekly housekeeper or you don't. You send your laundry out or you don't. When it's like, oh, you can do some of that stuff just once a year. So that part, and then also thinking about like what around the house is gonna look like what. When we come into, whatever your division of labor is with your spouse, recognizing, okay, honey, like when we come into the beginning of the school year or the end of the school year or Christmas, my invisible labor, my mental load, the amount that I'm doing for our family, my list increases threefold. And maybe you have the kind of partner where they're all about those transitions. And they jump in and they do those things or maybe they don't. But if they don't, the conversation needs to be during these months of the year, you need to be taking on X, Y, Z. I usually feed the cats. You need to feed the cats in August. I usually arrange or mow the lawn. You need to mow the lawn. I usually do the trash. You need to do the trash. You have to take on some of these more tangible items that make sense to your head because I am the one going out and finding the turquoise bow for turquoise bow day. All the ridiculous stuff that we have to do for school and talking about those sorts of things. And that can be really beneficial anyways, because it's not just me that goes through periods. In my family, it's not just me that goes through periods where my labor jumps from 5 to 15. My husband also has that. He's an attorney. And so he goes through periods where it's like, hey, I'm in trial. And I see him coming home and being like, oh my God, the cats haven't eaten today. For his things and having more of a fluid conversation about sometimes both of our lists are gonna jump and we're gonna need to both do more and rest more and have more grace for each other and have more grace for ourselves and be reminding each other that we're doing a good job. So I think part of it is looking at budget stuff. Part of it is talking about redistributing division of labor in those crunch times and then also looking at priorities. So like what really matters in those times.
Yeah, I love it. And it reminded me of Brené Brown years ago. I heard her in a podcast interview where she was like, it's not 50 -50, like we don't do 50 -50. We do like, what season are you in? Is this like, yeah, you're in trial and it's a crunch time for you. Like maybe it's 80 -20 during that season. And then we get back to a shift and there are times where it's 80 -20 on the other side but that it's not always 50 -50. And for it to not always be 50 -50 and to have that fluidity requires communication.
Yeah, I think when people talk about 50 -50, they think of like, like if you're thinking about like we're both rowing a boat and like you should have an oar and I should have an oar and we should be pumping at the same rate so we're not spinning in circles. But it's like, okay, but there's more to do on a boat than the oars. Like, what do you do when the boat gets a hole? What do you do when the people on the boat need to eat? What do you do when there's a storm? What do you do, right? It's like, there's other things. So like, who's going to do the oar when someone's running to go get the boat? Go to the lifeboater. You know what I mean? It's just more than that. You're right. It's not just, oh, it's 50 -50.
Yeah, and I think that that's huge. And when I think like our crunch times, you know, in this, you're right, like for us, we celebrate Christmas and so that is a busy one for us. And then that back to school and to school are both busy. And then yeah, different work seasons for us. One of the things that has become huge is we will sit down and we'll do like blackout dates kind of where, all right, Sage is starting a new school right after Labor Day. Cool. Those first two weekends in September, we're doing no travel. We're hosting no one. We're saying no to birthday parties. We're really, because he already is going to be spent from just transitioning into a new caregiver, a new school and all that. And we are going to take on, there's bigger feelings, more meltdowns. The physical labor for us in those seasons doesn't shift a whole lot. The emotional labor shifts a whole lot in those first couple of weeks of school. And so just looking at like, what's our bandwidth? We do blackout dates during those times or right before Christmas and right after Christmas, we'll look at like, all right, we're not hosting anyone here, we're not traveling again here. Like, here's what that looks like on either side of it has been huge for us. And it's the saying no to fun things. We've said no to weddings. We've said no to birthday parties. We've said no to things that are fun. Cause I'm like, we're going to hit a wall if we say yes to all of it.
And in the extracurriculars, like I think that's for older kids is like how many extracurriculars. And the two resources that I really recommend for this conversation, one is Eve Rodsky's book, Fair Play, is I think the best book written about division of labor. But the other one that I think is critically important is Emily Oster has a book called The Family Firm, where she talks about how her and her husband look at their family like a business and talk about what kinds of things, but they specifically go through decisions about like picking your own values. And so she says like, I can't remember what theirs was, but it's like one family, like you might decide like, okay, our value point is like family dinner. And that's what we do. And so we won't sign up for an extracurricular if it interferes with family dinner, at least for a season, right? She's like, but other people, it's like family dinner might not mean anything to you, but maybe it's Sundays. Sundays are family days. And so you can skip dinner during the week, that's fine, but we're not signing up for extracurriculars that take all day Sunday to go to, cause that's our family day. Or you might decide, hey, our kid's going to the Olympics. And that's what, but we do that together. That's, we get our, we wake up on Saturday mornings and we get our tumblers and we get our coolers and like, that's what we do. And so that's what we're doing. And that you can change those things every season, every quarter, every month. But those are two resources that I think could be really helpful. And having those conversations.
I love that. I love it so much. Oh, KC, we need all of this. We just need this conversation and the acknowledgement of what it really looks like to take a look at the supposed to's versus the need to, want to's and then where to go from there. So thank you. Thank you for writing How to Keep House While Drowning. Thank you for running the Struggle Care Podcast. We need these resources. Where else can people find you, follow you, learn more about you?
So my website is strugglecare.com. You can go from there to all sorts of places. You can go to the website and then that'll take you to the podcast. I have an online store with some downloadable resources. I have a lot of free resources. I have a TEDx talk that's linked there that you can look at. My book is on audio as well. If you're just not in the place where you feel like you can sit down and read a book. I do have a Instagram, a Facebook and a TikTok. You can get to all those from the website. My TikTok account is domesticblisters.
Sweet. Thank you so much for hanging out with us and for having this conversation.
Thank you for having me.
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